“Art means honesty.”
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Taylor Lee, and I’m from Raleigh, North Carolina. I live there with my husband and our pug, Frida. (Yes, she’s named after the artist!). I think that my first vivid memory of making art was when I accidentally cut myself with an X-acto knife. My grandmother used one to make tiny handmade furniture for a dollhouse she was working on, and she had a little workstation with a bunch of craft paint, mini trees, and glue. I picked up the knife from her work table and just started hacking at a piece of wood that was there, trying to copy what I had been watching her do. I was 4 years old and I basically sliced open the top of my hand with that knife. I still have the scar! Clearly, my artwork preferences have changed. Now I make abstract paintings and would never care to create a dollhouse from scratch at this point! When I was a kid, I did any type of art that I could get my hands on including crayons, paints, those funny little crafts in school where you use a halved apple as a stamp. Now, even though I focus on painting, I still have quite a large skill set with the various mediums of art because I’ve tried just about everything. I am self-taught and I have learned everything I know either from watching my grandmother or just playing around with the materials myself. Trial and error is a fantastic teacher.
Do you think there are any healing properties to art?
I definitely believe in the healing properties of artwork. When I went into inpatient treatment for an eating disorder in my early 20s, I learned the concept of art therapy and it totally changed the way I approach art. I used to make art just because I liked it, but now I paint intuitively and pull from deep emotions in order to make my art. It took a long time for me to be ok with the intuitive and free nature of art therapy and abstract painting because my inner perfectionist (the same part of me that my eating disorder grew from) would not just let go. If I didn’t believe that what I was going to make would be beautiful and validated by everyone, then I wouldn’t even bother. That’s why painting is such a courageous thing to do in my opinion. I’m proud of myself for being an artist. It takes guts. I also try not to plan my pieces. Going in without a plan taught me a lot about myself because I still end up gravitating toward similar compositions, and it’s fun to try and figure out what that means about myself. I’m inspired by bright, happy colors, so my process just looks like me throwing a bunch of those down. I listen to music while I create – something really emotional, whether that’s joyful pop or slow and sad folk. I usually work on about 5-8 pieces at a time because I need to let the paint dry, and I’m a really impatient person. I’ll overwork paintings sometimes because I won’t wait for a layer to dry properly, and then I just end up with a bunch of muddy mess. So my solution has been to lay out a bunch of canvases or paper at once and just go down the line, letting my experience with each one inform the next.
That is a GREAT question. I’m not really sure if some of my pieces are ever finished. I still find myself tweaking things from time to time. However, sometimes I will force myself to back away from a painting for fear that I will fuck it up if I don’t stop fussing. I typically will stand far away from a piece and stare at it for a long time. I make sure that every mark feels necessary, and I usually like for my composition to be very full (meaning not a lot of negative space). If a piece feels full, colorful, and feels sufficiently heavy along the bottom of the piece (that’s what makes sense to me), then I’m done.
I think abstract art attracts people because it makes you really think. You respond on such a visceral level to abstract work because there isn’t really any other way to react. Oftentimes you love it, but can’t put your finger on why, and struggle to find the words. I think that’s how a lot of people feel about the world they see, so of course, if they see that reflected in my artwork they will stop and listen.
Is there any specific story behind your artwork?
I used to see the world in black and white. Skinny or fat. Beautiful or hideous. Friend or foe. Perfect or worthless. A large part of that is due to my BPD, and it manifested in OCD, anorexia, depression, and anxiety. Everything I was feeling and going through felt too overwhelming, so it was easier to sort it all into two categories: hence, the black and white thinking (aka “splitting”). That’s why my art is so bright and vibrant. Frida Kahlo said that she painted her reality. I paint the world that I began to see once I started to heal from and manage my BPD. I hope other people will feel happy when they view my work. There’s just too much terrible in the world, and I want people to really escape that when they see my art.
I use a little bit of everything, but I mostly use acrylic paints.